Given these tough current economic climate I'm interested in how can you innovate without spending any money at all?
This scenario cropped up for me recently as I was chatting to an old friend who has just taken on responsibility for innovation within the company he works for, a successful software development company, that works primarily within the pharmaceutical sector. The company is full of scientists and other left brain types.
He was asking me for ideas about things they could do i leapt in with various ideas, but they all required some cash e.g. buying various books, bringing in external facilitation, and setting aside some budget to kick start various promising experiments and bringing them to proof of concept stage. He slightly sheepishly thanked me for the suggestions but then came clean that there was no budget, at all! Not even for a book or two. The emphasis is new for them and I think the senior management are reluctant to put money into high risk activity without it proving it's value.
We often talk about the value of innovating around constraints but what about a very hard constraint such as zero cash and just some time and good will of colleagues?
So my suggestions for what it's worth are:
Get out more – set aside some time to meet people – clients, customers, other companies or people doing interesting stuff. don't try too hard at first to link it immediately to the business. Just try to get inspired initially.
Mix things up – sit in a different seat, find some right brain thinkers, stir things up a bit, start researching other fields or domains.
Encourage both uncertainty and decisiveness – the danger with left brain organisation is they will close down new ideas before they've had time to mature so it is hard to develop new ideas. But at the same time be decisive about killing bad ideas or more importantly trying new stuff.
Find a few quick wins – are there some obvious things you could implement now that would prove the value of innovation within the company to secure some cash to try slightly larger scale projects.
That's as far as I got as a first attempt. But what do you think? I'd be really interested if you could help come up with ideas for what he, or anybody, could do to innovate without spending money. Thanks.